I was going to make this a spontaneous question for all, but I was running out of characters so I'm switching over to a MyTake instead. This was not my intention, so please treat this as a question and answer this yourself. I'd love to hear your take on it.
I'm going to go deep and be perhaps revealing here.
The things I've learned probably relate to other things along this same timeline in my life. I haven't only learned them from gag, but there are some things that have merged, and solidified in my mind lately.
I Needed Some New People in My LIfe. It Wasn't That I Couldn't Find Anyone Interesting Anymore
I have found interest in people again. Those of you who know me at all know that I am often digging for something deeper, more honest, more meaningful. Superficiality doesn't do much for me. I think there is potential to find more understanding, more fulfuillment by going beyond the surface. I can get something, actually a fair bit, out of polls and surveys and seeing where the general population (the zeitgeist, as I say) sits on things. That's informative. But what has more interest to me is the individual stories, and how a person's experiences and backgrounds shape them, and more significantly if they can overcome their past histories. I've come to be reminded that hearing things in overarching generalities, where culture is going and how it is shifting, is only satisfying to a point. We lose the real connection to people. It's distanced, abstract. I thought I wasn't interested or curious about people anymore, but part of that was because the relationships with people I used to know, or have known a long time, had changed, or all the good had, in essence, evaported, and they were no longer interesting to me. I'd explored those people and relationships and they had become unfulfilling, stale. The past became the past and nothing more. People change. People grow apart. Paths diverge. That's life, it's alright. But it was giving me the impression that there were no people I really wanted to know anymore. People were a disappointment. Stage left: enter gag.
Come As You Are
I've come to meet some interesting, and a couple great people here. I am absolutely aware that I only know a small piece, or pieces, yes, fragments of most, but they are living entities out there, more than just in the ether. Far away, yet breathing, struggling, sometimes thriving, but going through life, trying to make their way, searching... to find something that satisfies. Many of us are. Sometimes you can up with nothing. But I do know one thing, the thing I have said more than once before. You are more interesting when you 'come as you are'. No pretense, no facade. Gag is not about cultivating an image. It is probably guilty of too much honesty, too much bluntness at times, but at least it's real. It's not about creating the impression of a better life. And as Cuba say, "I dig that about you."
I'm Finding Better Ways to Deal With Conflict
Many years ago, I read somewhere, or maybe saw it in a documentary, that racism is mitigated one mind at a time. By the one-on-one interactions, and relationships, and bonds are formed, not so much en masse but individually. A guy meets another guy who he thought he didn't like, would have nothing in common, no respect for, even, yet he is surprised he actually likes him. Maybe they become friends, maybe they work on a project together, maybe one does a random act of kindness for the other, maybe they share some laughs over drinks and deep late night conversation... whatever it is, these personal interactions apparently have a greater impact on thinking, than all the reading, listening, watching from afar does. Now this doesn't apply to me, I knew this already, and I am open to talking to whomever, but what has changed for me is about conflict and disagreements.
A Lightbulb Moment Here and There
I'm going to be honest. Before a lot of you impressed me, you pissed me off. Okay, mostly it's not the same people, it's different people, but still. I saw a lot of you be crude, and rude, and bigoted, and aggressive, and passive-aggressive, and cowardly, and attack other users for very little reason or justification. I didn't think I would stick around long. Few really attacked me, but I saw it, a lot of it. I started blocking people. At first, I thought I was blocking from seeing them, but then I realized that wasn't how it worked. Then I liked the idea that it was blocking them from commenting on my questions, because I thought we should all have a choice who we hang out and associate with. Why let them f up my house. I made it nice, cozy, welcoming, supportive, and they're goona shit all over it. Spread lies and misinformation, be so negative. I've seen them do it many times before. The internet, just like society, is an ecosystem in itself, and it can only stand so much. Eventually it can crack under the weight of itself. And this happens one person at a time. But until a few weeks ago, I could see all the comments from them. I wasn't exactly trying to monitor them, I just happened across them often, so I often read their stuff. And I started seeing some interesting things. I saw some things revealed. Maybe once, in a weak moment, a rare admission, a vulnerability, a instance from their past, but there it was, now 'in ink', never to be deleted. Lightbulb moment. "Oooh, that's one of the reasons they act like a little ****er." Hmmm. Doesn't excuse them, but hmmm.
It Snowed Today. But I Am No Snowflake
I'm not saying this happens all the time, or even often, but like for instance in the past couple of weeks, there are a couple of male users who I unblocked months ago (because I read a comment or two from each of them that showed another side of them, and I was impressed, and I thought they deserve another chance.) One of them started being a much kinder, nicer, gentler person (no, not a simp, just a nice human being) and guess what - he just got a girlfriend. He's happy. Someone appreciates him. I knew something had happened. Anyway, that's just one example, but my too-long point is that I have changed my ways and my thinking these past months, well not that long after joining, and I have learned to not be so quick to dismiss people. And to make a real concerted effort to withstand the differences. As long as people are not rude or entirely unreasonable in how they express their opinions, we must all learn to withstand some of the brunt of it. This is part of the reason why I get so frustrated with so many people on here talking obstinantly about how they won't change for anybody. They know damn well when this topic is brought up it's not about changing the core of who you are, your values you hold dear, your favourite or most important things about yourself. It's about compromise, to be in the lives of others, and adaptation for yourself and the greater good. And challenging your own stubborn, biased ideas about the world.
I'm Not Such a Judgy Bear
So I've learned that I am a lot less judgmental than I thought I was. I used to say, reluctantly but honestly, that I was judgmental, and quick to judge. But, turns out I'm a lot more accepting of flaws and people than I knew. And that feels good. And I will continue to find exceptions out there, challenge my beliefs, be open to different ideas, and allow myself to be surprised. Ok. It doesn't happen often. I'm a good judge of character. My ideas about people usually turn out to be right. But negatives can turn into positives. And people can change. And people can have a bad day. And be set off by someone else. And people deserve a second chance, not to be written off after the first mistake... or two.
I Want What I Want When I Want It. Oops
The flip side of this is that I think we're all addicted to doing what we want, when we want. There are no responsibilities or expectations online. We do, and often, say as we please, come and go as we please. We turn you on and turn you off. (Yep, that's a double meaning.) I think we're becoming more selfish, with all this self-directed entertainment, etc. etc. But too late now. The internet and technology and computers in our pockets are here to stay. I'm just like you. I engage when I want to, and not when I don't. Still, there are those I am more accessible to, have more of a soft spot for in my heart. You know who you are.
How the Blocking System Functions
Anyway, this is not meant to be another discussion about blocking or censorship. My own conclusion is that categorically ostracizing people is probably not going to work. I thought it might eventually right some behaviour, and it would most definitely create a more peaceful and kind experience for people like me, but now I'm not so sure it's the best thing in the long run. I do not, nor never have, set my account to Private, or 'Allow PMs only from people I follow' or 'Hide messages from people I block'. None of that stuff. I rarely post anon. I'm not hiding. And it hasn't been a problem for me. But I do not like seeing missing comments all over the place. I think that's not right. I've messaged the site about the design of the blocking system, questions about how it is supposed to function, bug reports, my opinions on the design, etc. To me, it's not intuitive, and it doesn't function as I would expect. And they keep making tweaks to it. But for anyone who's interested, here's the info I've gathered directly from tech support:
- If you block someone who has not blocked you, they will not see any activity. You may or may not see their activity depending on your settings.
- If you both block each other, neither user will see the other’s activity.
Does that mean that me and the other person can't see our comments to each other, but everyone else can still see them, and make comments on them? And same, if it is my question? Yes. Currently, if you would want to see the opinion/reply of a user who blocked you, you would need to sign out and view it that way. (I use a Chrome Incognito window.)
You can tell if you are blocked by the question owner by things like...
- You won’t be able to upvote/downvote his opinions
- His profile will say it’s private
- You’ll get an error message if you try to pm him
Anonymous people cannot be blocked. This may be why so many post anon. They circumvent that. There are no consequences for them in this case.
I've Made a Decision
So I've decided to unblock everyone, and start over, clean slate. I'm going to make a note of who they are and if I continue to have problems with certain people being very unreasonable I may start blocking a few here and there again, but for now i'm starting over. We shall see how this goes. I've had a pretty pleasant experience these past recent months, so it could be a mistake, but philosphically, I think it's the right thing to do. (But p.s. I don't believe much in anon'ing, so I will continue to post most of my questions without the option.)
Kurt Gets the Last Word..
I'm going to end this with a song. You'll see the reference above. I chose the rehearsal version here of Nirvana's MTV Unplugged Come As You Are. In this day and age, we are often looking for authenticity, something real, something honest, no pretense or manipulation or distortion of facts. There is something to be said for polished final products and beautifully well-produced art (thank you to all the artist and technicians out there), but in this context of gag, that is not the draw. The raw is more interesting.
Goodnight, all. Sleep well and be happy.